Just back from Monterrey after my third trip
to Fundidora Park for the Tecate Grand Prix last weekend, on
my first of two visits to Wisconsin this week to take care
of some short track obligations. The story of Champ Car’s
sixth visit to Monterrey was clearly Sebastien Bourdais’
dominance of a strong field on a steamy May Sunday
While it’s too early to engrave this year’s
Vanderbilt Cup with Bourdais’ name, it’s not much of a
stretch to think it’ll take a major shift in the competitive
structure of Champ Car to see anyone else come away with the
2006 Champ Car championship.
Anyone who’s watched the Frenchman work his
magic at the wheel of the Newman/Haas #1 these past couple
of seasons would have to admit he’s the series’ benchmark on
the racetrack. And after watching the whupping he’s laid on
the field at Long Beach and at Monterrey it appears to me
he’s only getting better. Newman/Haas continues to give
Bourdais a race car that’s without peer at just about every
venue and Seb just keeps raising the bar as a driver.
The win at Monterrey means that Bourdais has
matched the start of Paul Tracy’s championship season three
years ago. Now it wouldn’t be unheard of in racing for a
driver or his team to lose the magic…and for another driver
and team to find it and make a battle out of the
championship. The woods are full of drivers who began a
season with a host of wins and great runs only to see their
advantage evaporate overnight while another driver finds
some magic of his own. But given the recent history in Champ
Car and Newman/Haas’ long history of achievement, that kind
of turnaround seems a long shot this season.
Just as puzzling, perhaps, is the slow start to the year of
Bourdais’ teammate Bruno Junqueira. Bruno has battled back
after devastating injuries suffered a year ago at Indy. It’s
a small miracle, at least to me, that he’s even able to get
into the car much less race it effectively. But while Bruno
is qualifying well he’s struggling once the green drops.
After being taken out in turn one at Long Beach he’s been
unable to keep pace with the leaders at either Houston or
Bruno says that aerobically he’s as strong
as ever, but that his rehab might not be complete in terms
of strength. The punishing Houston circuit surely wasn’t the
optimal place to race for Junqueira, and Monterrey’s heat
had to have been a challenge. Here’s hoping having this week
off coupled with the return to the Milwaukee Mile this weekend
will be just the balm Bruno needs to jumpstart his season.
Paul Tracy is among the Champ Car stars who have to be happy
about the trek to Beertown this weekend as well. PT’s strength
on ovals is well-documented; after passing pole winner Jimmy
Vasser last year, the Indeck-Forsythe 3 car was never
headed. A strong run to victory in the Time-Warner 225 could
be just the tonic Tracy needs to get his season turned
around, perhaps putting the 2003 champ on track to challenge
for the title.
The RuSPORT teammates, Justin Wilson and AJ Allmendinger,
need to take a leap forward this weekend at Milwaukee. Many
preseason estimates tabbed Wilson as the driver most likely
to challenge Bourdais for the Champ Car Championship this
season. He’s yet to really come to grips with oval racing,
while Allmendinger, who has had some success at Milwaukee,
needs to break his maiden in the series and grab a win.
We’ll see if the RuSPORT squad is ready to meet the
challenge of oval racing.
Me, I’m anticipating a Wisconsin battle between Tracy and
Oriol Servia, an accomplished oval racer who’ll steer a PKV
car carrying a strong Tom Brown setup, a proven Milwaukee
Hope you and yours enjoyed the Memorial Day
holiday and we’ll see you on SPEED next Sunday from the
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